Claonaig - Lochranza
Claonaig - Lochranza
Mainland - Arran
Crossing Time: 30 Minutes
1973 - 1986:
1988 - 1991:
Ranza / Loch
1993 - Present:
Various members of
the Island Class
and Loch Class
ferries on relief duties.
JUMP ON A VIRTUAL
Rather large vehicle queuing
area with space for up to around 20 cars, small passenger shelter and
separate public toilet block. Single concrete slipway provides the access
to the ferry, although this is an exposed location and can be affected by
Recently rebuilt pier provides ferry berth when not in use. Slipway and
marshalling area located next to the pier, as is the bus stop for public
transport routes around Arran.
It was in 1972 that the first car ferry crossing was made from Lochranza
on Arran to the remote settlement of Claonaig on the Kintyre Peninsula.
The new ferry assigned to this route was the little bow-loading Kilbrannan;
first of eight such ships that between them made up the 'Island Class'.
She could only carry four cars on each sailing, and with a crossing time
of half an hour, when queues developed for this new route, they were hard
to shift. Following a modification to the design of the ferries, the
replaced the Kilbrannan
on the 'back-door' route when she entered service in 1973.
The secondary Arran crossing was operated on a seasonal basis only, as
there was little demand - if any - for the ferry during the winter months.
The route was primarily a tourist route which allowed easier access to the
Kintyre Peninsula and as a result of this, the Rhum
would come off service at the end of the summer timetables and assume
relief duties over the winters.
As has generally been the case with new ferry routes, traffic levels
built up more and more. It was inevitable that a new ferry with higher
capacity would be required - it was just a question of when. The answer
came in 1987 when the fourth and final vessel of the new 'Loch Class' was
introduced. The Loch Ranza replaced the Rhum
at the start of the 1987 season and brought with her double her
Rhum loading at Lochranza
Despite the Kilbrannan Sound crossing being only seasonal, it was proving
very popular with tourists and day-trippers alike. And despite having room
for 12 cars on each crossing, the Loch Ranza found herself struggling to cope after only four seasons.
Such was the requirement for 12 car spaces to be available on each
crossing, when the Loch Ranza was out of service for any reason, two 'Island Class'
ferries were brought in as emergency cover (usually the Rhum;
redundant from that very route, and the Canna
which had been replaced on the Fishnish - Lochaline crossing in 1986).
Ranza arriving at her namesake
As ever, the only practical solution to the traffic levels was to introduce
yet another new ferry. July 1992 saw just that. The Loch Tarbert was of
roughly the same dimensions as the Loch Ranza but her port side passenger
lounge was removed in favour of a third lane on her car deck, giving her a
capacity of 18 cars.
Loch Tarbert arriving at Claonaig
Loch Tarbert in the Kilbrannan Sound
Loch Bhrusda covering at Lochranza
The new Loch Tarbert was a major benefit to the route. Drivers could now turn
up for the ferry and be almost guaranteed a space, unlike in previous
years. The crossing was still operated on a seasonal basis, but in the
late 1990s following the introduction of a new service across Loch Fyne, a
daily winter sailing was started and used the Loch Fyne ferry sailing from
Tarbert which offered much more shelter than isolated Claonaig. Initially
this service was intended for hazardous loads such as gas and petrol
tankers, however more recently the winter crossing was opened up as a
bookable ferry crossing, subject to availability. This was obviously a
successful move given that the crossing was still being operated in the
last winter season.
The Lochranza crossing now receives a ferry service almost every day of
the year, in one form or another and given its nature as a tourist route
it seems unlikely that the crossing will go back to a purely seasonal
The Loch Tarbert is still the main vessel, relieved usually by the Loch
Riddon which is located nearby at Largs, although these are not the only
vessels to keep the route open. In 2007 the former Western Isles ferry Loch
Bhrusda was to be found serving Arran for the first time while the Loch
Tarbert was receiving attention and in the past the Canna, Isle of Cumbrae and
other smaller Lochs have also been employed at various times.
Images from Ships of CalMac